Our mission statement & tasks

Our mission statement

The University of Zurich (UZH) is now one of the world's leading institutions in many life science fields. Biomedical research has always been associated with animal experiments. Although the development of new methods has been able to replace many animal experiments, replacement is not yet foreseeable in many important areas, especially in research areas where complex interactions are studied in the whole organism.

The UZH is aware that animal experiments are only accepted with reservations by large sections of the population. It has therefore committed itself to rigorously implementing the ethical principles and guidelines for experiments on animals of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences and the Swiss Academy of Sciences (PDF, 75 KB). The UZH also supports the goals of the Basel Declaration. Laboratory animal husbandry and scientific animal experiments at the UZH must be exemplary and must comply with both legal regulations and internal guidelines. Special attention is paid to the implementation of the 3Rs, i.e. the replacement of animal experiments by alternative methods ("replace") whenever possible and reasonable, the optimisation of the number of animals used in animal experiments ("reduce") as well as the continuous improvement of experimental and husbandry conditions ("refine").

In summary, animal welfare and the 3Rs should be taken into account through exemplary animal husbandry, appropriate training of the persons involved, careful experimental design and the use of all possibilities to reduce animal suffering. The Office for Animal Welfare and 3R supports the University of Zurich in pursuing this goal by providing advice, training and inspections. It reports to the Vice-President Research.

Support and advice

The Office for Animal Welfare & 3R

  • is the contact for all persons involved in animal experiments
  • advises investigators on the planning of experiments, in particular on the reduction of suffering in laboratory animals, biometric planning and methods for the reduction or replacement of animals in experiments
  • suggests improvements in the field of animal husbandry and experimental design
  • supports researchers in the creation of monitoring protocols and the definition of termination criteria (humane endpoints)
  • assists researchers in the preparation of licence applications and reports for the approval authorities
  • arranges contacts between research groups using similar experimental set-ups and external experts
  • advises people who carry out animal experiments on training and further education and refers them to existing courses and internships
  • organises its own teaching and further education courses and participates in training and further education courses of the Institute of Laboratory Animal Science and other institutions
  • supports project managers in informing UZH staff and outsiders (e.g. the press) about the experiments
  • supports the Vice-President Research in planning tasks in the area of animal experimentation / animal husbandry and 3Rs
  • is available to the Cantonal Veterinary Office and the Cantonal Commission for Animal Experiments as a contact
  • can make proposals to authorities and specialist organisations (e.g. adaptation of guidelines)

Internal Inspections

The Office for Animal Welfare & 3R

  • carries out internal controls of animal husbandry and animal experiments ("post-approval monitoring") and randomly checks compliance with animal protection legislation and animal experiment permits, including the correct documentation of interventions and observations (the office does not pass on information about the details of the control activities to the outside)
  • accompanies members of the Zurich Veterinary Office or the Animal Experimentation Commission during inspections of UZH animal holdings or animal experiments, if hygiene regulations permit
  • is informed by the authority about deficiencies in animal husbandry or in the performance of experiments
  • has unrestricted rights of access and inspection of files, while respecting official secrecy and hygiene rules
  • suggests improvements in the field of animal husbandry and experimental design
  • is authorized to issue instructions to the researchers
  • informs the Head of the Institutes, the Deans or the Vice-President for Research in the event of persistent shortcomings or disagreements
  • mediates between parties involved in animal experiments in the event of differences of opinion on animal protection and/or animal welfare

Procedure in case of persisting shortcomings of animal welfare

In case of severe shortcomings or suspected violation of the UZH animal welfare policy the Animal Welfare Officers will act as follows:

  • They inform the fallible person, the study director and the resource manager. Measures to eliminate the problems/shortcomings will be discussed with the study director and/or resource manager.
  • In the case of deficiencies relevant to animal welfare, the institute's director, the dean of the corresponding faculty and the Vice President Research can also be informed
  • The Head of the Offfice of Animal Welfare and 3R is authorized to give instructions.
  • The specific course of action may be determined on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with the Deans/Vice President Research and LASC representatives as appropriate.
  • Until a compromise settlement is reached, the AWOs can stop the provision of experimental animals for the objectionable experiment or stop the experiments in general in case of violation of the animal welfare legislation.
  • In case no settlement is reached, agreed measures are not taken or deadlines are not kept, the AWOs will inform the Executive Board of the University. These persons will - after hearing the study director and/or resource manager - decide on the measures or procedures to be taken and will inform the study director, resource manager and director of the corresponding institute as well as the AWOs about their decision.
  • In case the mandated measures/procedures are not fulfilled in a timely manner, or the animal welfare legislation was violated; the AWOs can involve the Legal Services of the UZH. Legal Services can report to the Cantonal Veterinary Office according to §9 of the Cantonal Animal Welfare Legislation.